American pastor's ministry facing closure under Russia's new anti-evangelism law

Lorraine Caballero      05 October, 2016 12:10 PM An American pastor's ministry in Russia is facing its end after he was charged with violating the country's anti-evangelism law under its new anti-terror legislation.

Donald Ossewaarde, 55, is the first American who has been charged under Russia's new anti-terror laws. The "Yarovaya" legislation has a provision that bans all missionary activities in nonreligious settings including preaching outside of a church or a religious center, Fox News details.

Pastor Ossewaarde has been charged with violating Russia's anti-religion law after he conducted religious services in his home and posted ads for the service around the area. A fine of around US$630 was also imposed on him for violating the country's "anti-sharing beliefs amendment."

In an interview with the Baptist Press (BP) last month, Ossewaarde said he and his wife Ruth always had the feeling that their ministry in Oryol would not last when they started spreading the Gospel there in 2002. After he was arrested in his home, the Independent Baptist missionary said he will leave Russia due to death threats even though he has already appealed the charges filed against him.

"I really think that the political situation in Russia has reached a point where they are going to, one way or the other, they're going to get rid of me," Ossewaarde told BP. "So I really decided to end my operations here. It's sad because there are people here that really enjoy what we do. It's a big part of their life."

Meanwhile, Ossewaarde said he had already referred his Bible study participants to the Russian Baptist Church. However, he said these believers were devastated because of what happened.

As of Aug. 22, five other individuals have been arrested for violation of Russia's anti-evangelism laws. Forum 18 lists another Baptist, a Hare Krishna, a Protestant, a Pentecostal, and a Seventh-day Adventist as those who have been arrested by authorities.